Can I receive Social Security disability benefits for having problems with drugs or alcohol?
Someone can receive Social Security disability benefits despite having a problem with drugs or alcohol, but not solely on the basis of the drug or alcohol problem itself. Since 1996, those with drug or alcohol addictions are not eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits if their drug or alcohol addictions are their only disabilities. On the other hand, if they would have disabilities even without problems with drugs or alcohol, then they could still qualify for benefits.
In general, a “disability” as defined by the Social Security Administration is a serious medical condition that has lasted (or will last) for at least one year, and prevents someone from being gainfully employed. Although a drug or alcohol addiction might seem to satisfy this definition, the Social Security Administration’s rules state that drug or alcohol addiction—by itself—is not a qualifying disability. Specifically, those who have problems with drugs or alcohol that are contributing factors “material” to their disabilities will not be found eligible by the Social Security Administration to receive disability benefits.
A drug or alcohol addiction is “material” to a person’s disability if the person would not be disabled but for the use of drugs or alcohol. In other words, those who would not be disabled if they completely stopped using drugs or alcohol are generally not eligible for Social Security disability benefits because their use of drugs or alcohol is “material.” For example, if a person suffers from chronic liver disease and abuses alcohol, then the person would probably not be found disabled by the Social Security Administration if the cessation of alcohol use would result in the improvement of the person’s condition. If, however, the person’s condition were so advanced that cessation of alcohol use would not result in any significant improvement, then the person could be eligible for disability benefits. In the latter case, the person’s alcohol use would not be “material.” The distinction becomes somewhat more difficult to prove in the case of mental, as opposed to physical, disabilities.
If you have been denied a claim for Social Security disability benefits on the basis of drug or alcohol problems, then you should speak with an attorney who focuses on Social Security law. An attorney can explain what you have to prove to establish your eligibility for benefits, and can help you obtain the benefits you need. Call or click here for a free online consultation with John T. Nicholson.